DPM Woos American Students On Visit To Ohio
ATHENS (Ohio), Nov 12 (Bernama) 2013 - With well-established universities present on Malaysian soil, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said it was time for American students to regard the Southeast Asian country as a study and research destination.
Malaysia, he said, should not be put in the "off the beaten track" category in their study abroad destinations, but listed as a preferred country for this purpose.
"Unfortunately, we have very few American students in our universities. We have many from China, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East studying at our universities, but not nearly enough from Europe and America," he said.
Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said this in his keynote speech when launching the 'Malaysia at Ohio University (OU) Outreach: Celebrating Five Decades of Strategic Partnerships' event at the OU Athens campus on Tuesday.
Besides being home to universities which had been rated by various international rankings and league tables, he said Malaysia had so much to offer in areas such as tropical diseases, complementary medicine and biodiversity.
In his speech themed 'Malaysian Higher Education in the 21st Century', Muhyiddin said education practitioners and government leaders recognised the impact of having international students in their respective campus as this would bring about cross-fertilisation of ideas and thoughts.
This, he reckoned, would lead to enrichment and strengthening in various academic areas, including the quality and diversity of faculty members, breadth and depth of research output, closer appreciation and understanding of intercultural issues, and many others.
Muhyiddin delivered his speech before an audience comprising OU president Dr Roderick J. McDavis and other key university leaders.
Elaborating on student mobility, the deputy prime minister said there were currently 6,900 Malaysian students in universities across the United States.
Noting that Malaysia had internationalized the 'varsityscape' of many American campuses since the early 20th century, he said in the 80s, some universities like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio had hundreds of Malaysian students on campus at any given time.
"The Illinois campus at Carbondale even had the sobriquet 'Kampong' dale because of the sheer number of Malaysian students in its campus. We acknowledge the superiority of your universities, a few of which have been in existence for close to 400 years.
"The sheer number or Malaysians studying in the US demonstrates Malaysia's confidence in your universities over the years," Muhyiddin said.
In the speech, Muhyiddin retraced the history of OU-Malaysia-ties, talked about the way forward in boosting these ties and offered insights into the Malaysian education system.
He said an exploratory meeting between a group of OU professors and a Malaysian diplomat based in Nigeria in the 1960s led to the development of business programmes at the then newly-founded Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM), now known as Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
"Ohio University staff worked with ITM to develop programmes in business, accounting and communication. I am told that today, more than 2,400 Malaysians hold degrees from Ohio University, the largest alumni group outside the state of Ohio which is quite a phenomenon," Muhyiddin said.
Noting that OU had been instrumental to Malaysia's development, he said: "It's a part we acknowledge with the establishment of two entities on this campus, namely the Tun Abdul Razak Chair in Southeast Asian Studies and the Malaysian Resource Centre at the Vernon R Alden Library."
The library was named after the 15th OU president who led the relationship between OU and Malaysia in the mid-60s.
In a bid to bring OU-Malaysia linkages to the next level, Muhyiddin suggested that focus be given to human capital development covering cross-border training, sponsorship programmes as well as research strategy encompassing cross-country research projects, faculty or staff exchange and multidisciplinary research training and information sharing.
He also highlighted the need to enhance networking and system development encompassing research fund strategy as well as infrastructure strategy, including multicentre research and inter-university collaboration within the region.
"I hope that these will be further discussed and perhaps a more concrete and detailed proposal could be tabled and presented at some point in the future," said Muhyiddin who later toured the Malaysian Resource Centre.
On education, he said the government was aware that the education system needed to keep up with demands and stay relevant lest Malaysia risked lagging behind in the quality of its human capital.
Also present at the event were Muhyiddin's wife Puan Sri Norainee Abdul Rahman, Charges d'Affaires at the Malaysian embassy in Washington DC Shahril Effendy Abdul Ghany, Higher Education director-general Prof Morshidi Sirat and current holder of Tun Abdul Razak chair Prof Dr Habibah Ashari.